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Gloomy October for UNESCO

Posted September. 25, 2017 07:24,   

Updated September. 25, 2017 08:50

한국어

Fourteen UNESCO International Advisors will be screening the applications for the Memory of the World in Paris for four days from Oct. 24. It is a meaningful task to designate records worth of global preservation every two years. However, the face of UNESCO officials before the screening is dark.

This year, more than 130 agendas will be discussed, but the interests of the member countries are in sharp contrast to each agenda. Due to pressures of the representatives of each member country, UNESCO is walking on eggshells and stuck between a rock and a hard place.

On Sept. 12, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary blatantly threatened to “take action” if the records of comfort women submitted by 15 civic groups in eight countries including Korea, China and Japan are listed as the UNESCO heritage. The action is likely to mean Japan’s delinquent or unpaid contributions.

UNESCO is operated by the contributions of its 195 member countries. The contribution is an obligation of the members. However, some member states are abusing it as a threatening bait.

Japan, the second largest contributor, has not yet paid this year’s contribution. Last year, simply because the Nanjing Massacre in China was registered as the Memory of the World, it made the organization anxious by delaying the payment of the contributions until December. Previously, Japan used to pay in April or May. This year again, it intends to decide whether or not to pay contributions depending on the results of the register application for the comfort women records.

It is said that China also puts enormous pressure when it comes to national issues although the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman warned last Monday that Japan should not interfere the registration of the records of comfort women. This is to prevent the photograph of a man blocking the tanks that were sent to suppress the protesters of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989 from being registered as the world record heritage. China is the third largest contributor.

It is not only Northeast Asia that UNESCO should be conscious of. The United States, the largest contributor with a whopping 22 percent, has not paid a penny since 2011. It is because Palestine, which the United States cannot accept as a country, was assented as a member country. But, UNESCO has been too conscious of the United States and not been able to remove it from the executive board. The poster related to the liberation of Palestine will also be on the agenda this year. It is said that even Russia is strongly opposing the heritage application related to the Stalin government forcing the people of Baltic States to move to Siberia in 1941.

As of Thursday, 36 percent of the total amount remains unpaid, as 77 out of the 195 member states are not paying their contributions. Korea has fully paid in February.

“We are already closing down many programs because we are short of funds, and we may have to worry about our employees’ salaries soon,” a UNESCO official recently said.

Anyone whether it be Individuals or countries can make an application for the UNESCO Memory of the World. Although UNESCO director-general is the final decision maker, it has been common practice that the director-general signs the conclusion of the International Advisory Committee. However, as the “national interest first” has become widespread throughout the world, countries are adding pressure so severely regarding each issue that Director-General Irina Bokova cannot come to a conclusion and is expected to finish her term in mid-November.

China has made an issue of the delinquent payment of the United States and Japan, the two largest contributors, while increasing its contributions. Taking this as an opportunity, Chinese Director-General candidate has been rising as a front runner. It is said that Japan is trying desperately hard to prevent this.

U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May also said at the United Nations General Assembly that the UN contribution is not fair and would be cut. The UN, UNESCO, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, all led and established by the world powers for world and regional peace after World War II, are now facing crisis due to the “national interest first” policy of the world powers. It is an important signal that world peace is at stake.